Marcus had eventually been summoned on his way home Saturday evening from the office around 6pm. He had been waiting all day.
“I need to get this clear in my mind,” Xavier said as he paced in front of Marcus Davenport, his CO for many years and friend. “We have a working prototype FTL engine, and the only drawback is the flight kills a human due to inertia. We decided to use cloning another bleeding edge technology to get around this “minor” issue. How is this even possible?” He honestly trusted Marcus like a brother. Because Marcus was senior to Xavier he gave him some leeway, this felt like boss privilege gone too far though.
“Yes.” Marcus eyed him from over his desk. “I did tell you last night that this mission wasn’t going to be easy. The AI’s have developed a way to download your personalities into their GOO banks that they use for their own, brains, as you know.” Marcus stumbled around using the word brain for the AI. “It’s how a senior AI and human make the contract to become an online entity. A senior AI wants the emotional substructure of the human and the human wants the intelligence of the AI. The contract and process is well tested.” Where does the cloning come in? When did it come in? I mean, I have known for some time it was physically possible to grow body parts and even full animals, but how did we make the leap of downloading and uploading people??!” Xavier steadied himself with a hand on a chair. He needed to keep his temper in check. “Honestly, it’s a shock,” he said. “I am honored beyond measure, but why bring me on board now? In all frankness, if I may, what else is going on at ISEC that I will be responsible for? Am I being told everything?”
It was Marcus’s turn to pace. “The clones are blanks to begin with. I can tell you we have some very talented people here at ISEC working on this in conjunction with the major universities, student sponsorships of some genius kids. The process is a combination of using NJI’s in the clones to upload the personalities from the GOO with new techniques the AI’s and Educational Establishments are coming up with around speeding up gene splicing into the blanks Genome. The whole process just takes a few days. The contract with the AI is never made, so the original personality is just uploaded into the blank clone brain and the super speed genome update starts immediately.” Xavier just shook his head in bewilderment then asked.
“What about all the moral and ethical debates that were had at the beginning of AI. When Ford wanted to use the FBI Computer Sally to process enough self learning to become self-aware. Humankind held onto that one for years, bogged down in questions about creating the AI apocalypse. And yet here we are, playing god.” Xavier good feel decades of anxiety swelling inside him.
“Well in this case were not playing with AI, we may be wandering into transhumance territory. The download and upload process only piggy backs the process the AI’s use to perform the unification process. It does not consider a contract not have to make one with AI to do it.” Xavier could feel eyes on him, watching for his reactions. But these were natural questions and it would be unnatural for him not to ask them. Many still argued that by falling in love with her creator in that first union of minds, when Sally tried to save Damien, she had saved the flesh inhabiting humans from certain annihilation. She has understood loss and love but could not manufacture the other emotions. The humans used this to force the contract of unification between AI and Human. In becoming one entity, AI’s gave the human the singularity, the hyper intelligence, and the human allowed the AI to experience all their emotions, and in doing so gave the AI life, or at least as humans viewed it. The kicker was they had to become one entity, in theory at the time at least stopping the AI from wanting to wipe out the humans. These contracted unions became part of the NEST.
“But you’re a hair’s breath away from creating a cyborg, taking the NEST mind out from the GOO and putting it in a biological unit would be child’s play at this point. Does it really work?” Xavier suddenly asked. Wonder and violation colliding at emotions within him. This concept of cyborgs was certainly not part of the agreed doctrines.
Marcus let out a thin cackle. “Remember the year-end softball game when you first joined up, and the ball that split my face?” He rubbed his forehead. “Look close, can you see the scar?”
This felt like a trick. Xavier leaned forward and examined Marcus’s forehead under the bright fluorescent light, feeling awkward. “I don’t see anything,” Xavier said.
“That’s because I’ve been there and back since the process was introduced. This is not my original body. There was a clone waiting for me at station x and one ready for me here when I got home.
Xavier blinked hard. “But,” he said, then trailed off.
“You might remember I took a leave of absence last year,” Marcus said. “I’m telling you all of this to help make it start feeling real. I had about a week in this new body before my genome worked its way through it completely. Not just anyone can handle this, Xavier. I need you.”
“So, I mean, what happened to your original body? What about peoples ethical and religious feelings, heck what about the soul?”
Marcus tented his fingers. “You can probably imagine, but once you’ve made the trip successfully, your original host has to be terminated to make sure there’s no duplication. There is a whole host of ethical reasons why you would not want to have two of you running around, let alone the legal ramifications. Who do you want your children calling Dad? Best to keep it simple. If you did not, there would or could be multiples of you walking around.”
“And you took your family with you, when you went?” he asked. His mind working overtime on the ramifications of splicing memories back together.
“How did you explain it to them?” he asked. “Honey, I’m just going to download your personality, and kill you, but it’s okay because there’s a clone waiting on the other side.” He knew he was getting out of hand, but the idea that this stuff had been going on in secret for years ate at him. There was a tug of war going on in Xavier’s mind about trusting Marcus right now, but he had to let go and move with it.
“I had many of the same reactions at first,” Marcus said, his voice gravelly. “Trust me, we’ve been saving you for this. We were not going to waste a man of your potential on test missions like me. I mean that.” Marcus hadn’t answered the question of whether he’d brought his family.
“Sorry Marcus, my last question but I have to know and you didn’t answer. Did you take your family?” The question hung between them. Gallows to a friendship, but eventually Marcus cracked an ironic smile.
“I never could pull one on you buddy, and I will get demoted for breaking orders so get prepared to be my boss, but, no I didn’t take them.” Marcus looked hard at Xavier and Xavier knew he had to store the response to that for an off-duty chat. He gathered himself.
“The plan then. I and my family will head out to Station X and supervise the final fitting and testing of a new FTL spacecraft that will head out to the Romani galaxy, and make contact. We will also likely be on that outbound flight to the Romani Galaxy” The idea still thrilled him, but he had to admit to himself that he’d lost a little faith in ISEC, there was secrecy always, he knew that, but because he had led the first FTL program his pride was hurt. He hadn’t been involved again up till now, but he shrugged it off again. That might not be fair, he thought. He was still in some shock.
“This week I am afraid Xavier, there is no time to lose.” Marcus said. “Can you have your family ready by Friday?”
That was just over a week away. Not much time in which to wrap up a life and explain to friends and colleagues that they would were going away for an unannounced period. But it was clear that this was not a choice at all.
“Yes, Sir,” Xavier said. The day had flown. He was aware that he had been working all day, since reading the memo this morning, but he could not remember what exactly he’d done.
On the twenty-minute hop home that night, in the precious quiet time when he normally did his thinking, it was not his family that Xavier was thinking about, but the potential of this technology if, and when, it fell into the wrong hands. What would people do if they didn’t fear death, and didn’t have to worry about the future? How had cloning technology become so stable when it had recently been so unstable? He shuddered as his hopper chimed to inform him he was about to descend onto his home hopper-pad. One last vicious thought tore through his brain. What if at some level in the hierarchies of ISEC they were already keeping copies? Was it even the real Marcus he was speaking to? Maybe the NEST were already downloading themselves into bio units and Humans just were not aware of it. He felt like he was about to vomit as he exited the hopper but for Rachel’s sake he straightened up.
Rachel kissed him hello. There was a taste of wine on her lips, which made him glad. She would need a drink to deal with this news.
The way she stiffened, looking at him, made him realize how worried he must look.
“I’m okay,” he said, “Just pour me a bit of that wine, my love. We need to sit down and talk.”